Cajoling Prayut appears confident about one thing he shouldn’t trust _ nature
September 30, 2021: The prime minister is continuing his double-edged-sword approach to the flooding crisis, using sweet words and giving affected villagers as well as fearful others hope that the end is in sight.
In a Facebook post just hours ago, he said floodwater will subside within 15 days “if there are no more storms.” Like Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda, he dismissed the possibility of a repeat of 2011, when the country saw one of the worst flooding ever.
Current flood “crises” have begun to scatter. They can be seasonal or unpreventable, but they are adding to the hardships generated by COVID-19, hence another big political issue for the government. Despite Prayut’s apparent optimism, this period will definitely see more heavy rains.
A highlight of the prime minister’s post is his statement that he made flood visits to give encouragement, but he ended up getting encouraged instead by villagers’ smiles and fighting spirit. The trips and such posts can work well politically if nature becomes kinder in the coming days. If not, they can backfire. The political “15-day” countdown may have already begun.
September 29, 2021: Here’s what the interior minister said, word for word, on the possibility of the 2011 flood catastrophe being repeated this year:
“I can say that, according to what the water party (management officials, experts or authorities) has explained, a big flood like the one in 2011 will not happen. Even if there is one or two storm systems coming, as long as we handle water management according to plans, and as long as no more (unexpected, heavy) rains occur, it will end. And even if (unexpected, heavy) rains happened, there are also plans to handle (unexpected) water.”
Other parts of his statement went along this line, which is that the situation will come and go. It’s an intriguing remark, which the opposition and activists must have had on tape.
If Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda wanted to ease growing concern, there are two major points here. 1. 2011 was exceptional and it should not be used as anyone’s benchmark on “bad”. 2. What’s happening currently is bad and it’s testing the government’s crisis management in addition to how COVID-19 is being coped with.
September 28, 2021: Formidable sea and air fleets, economic sanctions and nuclear warheads may scare smaller countries into choosing sides, but aid wins hearts, especially if it counts.
The United States and China are dangling carrot and stick, one more so than the other. Technologically, though, it is more obvious who are doing it militarily and who are doing more for mankind innovations.
China is promoting human-less farms, featuring such things as drones and tractors that drive themselves. Such technology will, very much, come in handy for many other nations including agricultural Thailand. How much will be shared with the rest of the world remains to be seen, though. Revolutionised farming can change billions of lives for the better.
Food must be cheaper, ample and last longer. Whoever can make that happen will be the true superpower.
September 27, 2021: On Sunday, when appearing in front of flood-hit villagers, the prime minister was a different man from the testy and grumpy one seen by Bangkok reporters.
In Sukhothai, when he visited people affected by severe flooding, he was conspicuously overheard telling local officials that they should not mind having to work on holidays, “because the suffering of the people have no holidays.”
When some villagers gave him durians, he said he would share them with Palang Pracharath leader Prawit Wongsuwan and Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda. The trio’s political unity has been a subject of public speculation lately. Anupong accompanied him during the weekend trip.
At one point during the Sukhothai visit, during which relief items were distributed, Prayut said, again conspicuously, that he would keep on working although nobody loved him. When he was given the microphone, he said: “This is the prime minister. I’m here to see you. This is a natural disaster and the discomfort will be on for a while. I wish you all strong health.” When some villagers told him to keep on fighting, he replied: “I will.”
The mutual amicability masked the fact that serious flooding has become another big trouble for the embattled prime minister who has had to grapple with COVID-19 on the back foot almost all the time and deal continuously with heavy factional problems that are undermining the government alliance.
Senior government officials have denied that Prayut’s increased rural activities were a sign that a snap election is coming.
September 26, 2021: A lot more Thais will get vaccines next months and more “third shot” appointments will be made as well, according to a key Public Health Ministry message issued this weekend.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul seemed optimistic that vaccine shortage problems would go away, as he told a press conference that over 50 million doses had been administered in Thailand and nearly 45% of the 70-million-strong Thai population had received the first shots.
He said October would see a significant progress in vaccination numbers as stockpiles have built to enable larger numbers of jabs per day. The Thai government has boasted a rare one-million-per-day vaccine shot number (first and second doses) and suggested there would be more of that.
Anutin openly talked about the third or “booster” shot, something the World Health Organisation has frowned upon because much of the world population is yet to receive the first shot. He said Thai health authorities are aware of immunity and “public confidence” issues related to the vaccines and Thailand had just achieved a 150,000-per-day booster shots provision.
The minister even encouraged the public to apply for the third shots. As for the overall situation, he said Thailand would have 125 million vaccine doses in stock until the end of the year and next year will see “a definitely sufficient” supply.
“We are reaching all our acquisition targets and the public must rest assured that we will quickly dispense the supplies to all Thais,” he said.
Optimists will welcome his talk, but skeptics might feel it’s too “election advertisement” for comfort.
Meanwhile, the same opinion pollsters who said recently that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had been told by a vast majority of responders to stay away from politics after the next election are now saying he remains the most popular choice for prime minister ahead of Sudarat Keyuraphan and Pita Limjaroenrat respectively. Prayut (17.54%) actually came “second” in the NIDA poll survey of 2,018 people with the most overwhelming responses (32.61%) being “I like nobody”.
Both Sudarat and and Pita get more or less 11%. Sudarat saw a slight increase from the last NIDA survey, while Pita had a jump of about 5%.
September 25, 2021: No sooner had one survey showed negative sentiment against the government, than another one came up showing overwhelming public disapproval of “mob violence.”
Super Poll said nearly 95% of 1,104 people surveyed recently felt the followings: 1. (Violent) protesters add insult to injury and disrupt innocent people’s attempts to earn their livings. (94.9%) 2. They (the public) learned everyday news reports about unruly protests using youngsters as tools. (94.4%) 3. Police have to be decisive and drastic in dealing with leaders or anyone found responsible behind the scenes. (94.2%) 4. Violence is a crime and shall not be associated with demands for democracy. (93.3%) 5. Something that has happened on the streets encroached upon other people’s rights and way of life. (92.9%).
The poll, which also had positive findings on attempts to deal with COVID-19 as a public health threat and economic scourge, must have made the prime minister smile after another opinion poll recently saw his approval ratings plummeting scarily.
September 24, 2021: In what could be a major political indicator, key members of the ruling party have voiced concern that their camp could get smaller in the next election, but this could also give anti-government activists a big dilemma.
A shrinking Palang Pracharath Party would give the rival alliance, which is the opposition bloc at the moment, a big advantage even if the current constitutional rule empowering the Senate to join the House of Representatives in electing the prime minister holds sway. Simply put, if the opposition alliance wins a clear House majority in the next election, the Senate will be under immense pressure to back it.
The Palang Pracharath concern came out at a gathering of several key party MPs this week, attended by controversial secretary-general Thammanat Prompao. Thammanat reportedly told the meeting that there was no conflict with the prime minister and urged Palang Pracharath MPs not to presume that whenever Palang Pracharath groups hold separate events, it’s a “test of strength”.
Another message coming out of the meeting was that the government would last its term. However, a few expressed worries that the party would be smaller than the Move Forward Party after the next election. Palang Pracharath, it was also reported, is unlikely to field a Bangkok gubernatorial candidate.
What was said at the gathering could be sincere, or it could be meant as some hidden signal to the prime minister. Either way, he will not like it.
Now, the government’s opponents have two main options. 1. They can up the ante and try to overthrow the prime minister now, doing everything they can. This choice runs the risk of provoking a strong-handed state response that could lead to a longer period of frustration, violence, uncertainties, backfiring and waiting. 2. They can lie low or just keep the pressure on, softening up the government in the process without doing anything drastic that could discredit themselves and the parliamentary opposition. This means they would have to wait until the government completes its term and try to defeat it in the next election when the opposition alliance in Parliament has a good chance.
September 23, 2021: It’s not easy to decide whether to stay in Hong Kong or move to Singapore these days, with volatile politics in one place being measured against negative factors in the other.
To compound the situation, the issue has become a big proxy, too. Hong Kong losing all economic attractions means America can gloat. Otherwise China will say my baby is still prettier than yours.
According to CNN this week, expats, investors and businesses have left, or are planning to leave, or are thinking about leaving, or are downsizing their involvement with, Hong Kong. Concern about China’s growing influence has increased with tough COVID-19 quarantine.
Singapore is reportedly their preferred choice, although COVID-19 has complicated things. Additionally, while Hong Kong’s “Zero COVID-19” attempt is full of restrictions thwarting businesses, it has seemed to work. Also, China is not giving up its fight to keep the city’s economic pulse beating and Singapore’s far-from-democratically-perfect politics can be the case of “grass is always greener …” In Singapore, too, rights activists can go to jail for very little, and the voices and activities of opposition politicians are more a lot more drowned out than, say, their Thai counterparts.
Singapore is ideologically closer to the United States, but the island nation is geographically a lot closer to China. How much Singapore’s enhanced role as the “free world hub” could impact Thai domestic and international politics remains to be seen. One thing is certain: Both sides of Thailand’s political divide must be watching developments closely.
September 22, 2021: There are two possibilities. Either Delta somehow has found a way to breach and ravage the world’s richest, best technologically-advanced and logistically-amazing fortress or the vaccines are not working the way they are supposed to.
Check out the infection and death numbers in Thailand and America and one will sense that something is seriously wrong. Roughly 70 million Americans have refused vaccination, compared to about 40 million Thais who haven’t got the first shot (due to unavailability of vaccines), but the difference in case figures is too wide for comfort.
Average deaths per day in America have climbed 40% over the past two weeks to more than 1,900. All things considered, it should have been consistent with the difference in both countries’ unvaccinated numbers. Thai deaths per day have been hovering around 100 plus and 200 plus currently.
Infections in America have been noticeable too, surpassing 200,000 per day a few times over the past few weeks and staying well above 100,000 daily on many other days. Thailand, meanwhile, has seen 10,000 plus and 20,000 plus over the same period. Again, the vastly-different numbers do not reflect the fact that Thailand as a whole is significantly less vaccinated than America.
Are unvaccinated Thais protecting themselves better than their American counterparts? Is Delta more formidable in the United States than in Thailand? Yes, Thai politics is badly divided, but is American politics even more so? Yet the most disturbing question of all has to be “Are vaccines working the way we hope they should?”
September 21, 2021: Stock markets, which, ideologically speaking, should have no business concerning themselves with how Chinese businessmen are doing, have fallen all across the world with “China” being the main headlines.
The brave new world is an ideological mess, and news stories on Evergrande summed it up. Among them is a CNN lead paragraph, which reads as follows: “The Dow and the broader US stock market fell to close sharply lower Monday as Chinese real estate conglomerate Evergrande’s debt crisis made American investors uneasy.”
It happened elsewhere around the globe, too. For all the talks about a new Cold War, about ideological “threats” China may be posing on “democracy”, about human rights abuses, about Hong Kong, about economic sanctions, about Hua Wei, about warships that weren’t supposed to be there, capitalism is having one of the biggest squirms because of something it should have instead celebrated _ a Chinese financial trouble.
That is not strange, many will argue. The argument, though, can be the strangest of all. (But make no mistake. Beijing is responsible for the absurdity, too.)
September 20, 2021: They say politics, religion and sports shall never mix, but real life violates the rule on a daily basis. Now, it’s the turn of one of the world’s best boxers.
Manny Pacquio will run for the presidency in the Philippines, having boxed his way to the top in both the ring and assembly hall. That presents a possible obstacle to President Rodrigo Duterte’s perceived succession agenda.
There is no need to mention the accolades Pacquio has earned as a boxer. In fact, his remarkable success in the ring played a big role in his path to become a senator.
Here’s the moral of the entire Pacquio story: Not everyone can be a great boxer but anyone can be a politician.
September 19, 2021: A NIDA survey has strongly favored Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha staying away from the next election and politics altogether.
The opinion poll’s results also advised Prayut against taking over the Palang Pracharath Party’s helm and suggested the public were split on the impact of Thammanat Prompao’s departure from the Cabinet.
More than 58% thought Prayut’s “poor” performance did not warrant a second term, let alone setting up a new party of his own. About 20% disagreed, saying “decisive” Prayut deserved to continue leading Thailand.
More than 56% of 1,317 Thais surveyed recently said Prayut must not get anywhere near the biggest coalition party’s management board, as opposed to about 16% who thought Prayut should replace Prawit Wongsuwan as the party’s leader. However, more than 21% were of the opinion that although the prime minister should not lead Palang Pracharath officially and directly, he must be able to “keep it under control.”
As for Thammanat, almost 30% said Prayut “had done the right thing”, compared with more than 17% who thought it was an “improper” Cabinet move. Almost 17% thought Palang Pracharath would become more divisive.
More than 23% had the confidence that Prayut, Prawit and Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda would hold sway as a powerful political alliance.
September 18, 2021: “Conspiracy theories” regarding the 9/11 terror attacks on America are normally ignored by the mainstream media, but this year’s anniversary of the events has seen a little, albeit notable, change.
Since submitting an application last month for a new inquest into the death of Geoff Campbell, the family has been able to get their suspicion out to people across the UK through several tabloids and local news outlets including a new broadcaster. This marked a small change in mainstream media attitudes although it has to be noted that the family’s story coincided with the anniversary which normally spiked relatable coverages, and that larger organisations like the BBC and The Guardian have yet to cover the family.
The British man was among some 3,000 people who died on that fateful day on 2001, and several families have joined the “Truthers” movement which questions the entire official narrative on 9/11. The activists have had difficulty in making their voices heard, largely because the mainstream media are not with them, and have released a new film, The Unspeakable, in the hope of getting their messages to larger audiences.
September 17, 2021: Many scientists have concluded that light at the end of the tunnel as far as the coronavirus is concerned will not be seen in the next three to six months, and the situation can get worse than what has already been experienced.
There are gloomy and scary predictions by top health experts. Among what they think, according to Bloomberg: 1. The next few months will be rough. 2. One key and realistic danger is the emergence of a vaccine-resistant variant. 3. That kind of danger can be amplified by the push to reopen economies. 4. More schools can be closed and classes cancelled. 5. Even without a vaccine-proof variant, “breakthrough infections” among inoculated populations will increase. 6. Hospitals can be overwhelmed again and many workplaces can stop work from home at their own risks. 7. In some places, everyone will have been infected or vaccinated. Maybe both. An unlucky few may contract the virus twice. 8. That the virus appears to be going easy on death tolls from time to time may have something to do with the need to keep some of the hosts alive. 9. Yet there is also another possibility that the coronavirus will get deadlier and not care about maintaining the host populations that much. Instead, the virus can be like a “forest fire that will not stop burning until all the woods are gone.” 10. That the coronavirus may care less about not completely wiping out the hosts may have something to do with its ability to always find new ones, like the younger and younger people as is the case currently.
September 16, 2021: On the one hand, there are stories of terror, human abuses and fears. On the other hand, there are stories of posh lifestyles of the people the Taliban have overthrown.
The former stories are in abundance, picked up and played up constantly by the western media. The latter are considerably rarely reported, but it doesn’t mean they are less jaw-dropping. One of such stories has emerged this week involving a former government official’s villa that the Taliban say is the extreme opposite of their lives in caves or bunkers or concrete fortresses.
The Taliban have organised a “tour” of the mansion of ex-vice president and fugitive Abdul Rashid Dostum. The place is, in the words of a reporter, “unimaginable for all ordinary Afghans”. The complex is huge and equipped with all kinds of luxury. Photos show sofas, living rooms and indoor swimming pool of the kinds often seen in classic movies about European elites. There is also a sauna and carpets and a maze of lounges decorated with chandeliers and exquisite tiles over the place.
“Islam never wants us to have all these,” a senior Taliban military official was quoted as saying. Without massive and endemic corruption, how could a government leader own such a compound? The Taliban asked.
September 15, 2021: Forget the consequences of the Taliban retaking control for a minute. A US devastating parting shot in the form of a drone strike may have killed someone who wanted to be resettled in the “Land of the Free”.
To the American military, 43-year-old Zamarai Ahmadi was an ISIS-K facilitator they assumed was involved in a plot to attack Kabul’s international airport during the final, hectic days of the pullout. To his family and colleagues at a US nonprofit group, he was an aid worker applying for a US visa to get his family out of the Taliban-controlled country.
The clashing narratives, reported by CNN, summed up the situations for people like Ahmadi and their families. It doesn’t matter whether they are real spies or “clean”, there must be innocent people living around them whose lives are also in jeopardy.
The US drone strike, launched in response to the airport terror, killed three men with visa pathways to America and seven children aged 15 and under. Relatives were heartbroken while some lawyers called it a war crime. The tragedy does not end there for those seeking justice, as more talks of “helping America” or visa applications could be subjected to Taliban scrutiny and unwanted results.
Innocent people killed in this kind of “wars” are common. There were also those suspected by both sides and poorly or cruelly treated by both sides. Many cases have gone unnoticed or under-reported and never received fair, international justice
Ahmadi was his usual “joking”, “talking” and “laughing” self just before the drone attack occurred. One relative’s quote could make many speechless: “I thought it was the usual terror attack common in our country.”
September 14, 2021: After the Prayut-and-Thammanat watch has ended with the objects drifting apart as expected, the Thai public now have something else to monitor. Currently, it’s the relationship between the prime minister and Palang Pracharath leader Prawit Wongsuwan.
Prayut Chan-o-cha and Prawit remained playful toward each other, according to a senior politician who was with them over the past 24 hours. “I don’t see tension at all,” said Varawut Silpa-archa, the national resources and environment minister. “They still laughed and teased each other. They still poked fun at each other. I don’t see any sulking.”
Varawut, who met the two at a high-level meeting on land policies, also quoted Prayut as saying: “We (Prayut and Prawit) never fight. I am what I am today because of my big brother Prawit. We don’t have to say a word to each other. Just looking at each other and we’ll know what the other person is thinking.”
The Chartthaipattana, Democrat and Bhumjaithai, all of them key coalition allies, have publicly said they don’t see any sign of conflict between Prayut and Prawit in the wake of Thammanat Propao’s departure from the Cabinet. Thammanat has left an impression that the bridge is burning between himself and Prayut, and implied that his future with the Palang Pracharath Party is far from certain.
September 13, 2021: With speculation all but rife that Prayut Chan-o-cha might dissolve the House of Representatives soon to maintain his parliamentary advantage for the next election, the leader of the Democrat Party, his major ally, has failed to provide a guarantee that the prime minister would not do that.
Jurin Laksanawisit, who is also commerce minister and deputy prime minister, said he didn’t think a House dissolution was Prayut’s plan, but the Democrat leader stopped short of confirming that Prayut would never ever unleash his only weapon left to counter the Pheu Thai Party and the believed existence of coalition mutiny.
Jurin said that it was normal during a flood crisis for government leaders including Prayut to frequently visit rural areas, therefore such trips should not be misconstrued as “election-campaign” activities.
“It’s usual for the prime minister to go places due to the flood problem,” Jurin said. “I don’t think such activity is a sign.” He, however, added that if there had to be a sign, it must be something else.
“I’m not in position to guarantee anything because I’m not the one holding the power to dissolve the House,” he said. He was stating the fact, but his remark would do anything but calm down considerable jitters at the moment.
September 12, 2021: A NIDA poll shows mixed public beliefs on whether Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Palang Pracharath leader and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, and Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda will remain a powerful political alliance after the next election.
The NIDA poll questioned 1,310 Thais amid the latest political tumult because the trio’s unity is crucial when Prayut’s future is concerned. With Phuket facing a remarkable COVID-19 threat, national infection and death numbers still high, Palang Pracharath strongman Thammanat Propao ejected from the Cabinet, the prime minister is seen as enduring the biggest crisis of his reign.
About 32% of those surveyed thought Prayut would not return as prime minister after the next election. A total of 30.53% said such a scenario was “likely”. The two groups are up against 22.60% who predicted that Prayut would definitely come back as prime minister and 10.84% who were convinced that Prayut not returning was “unlikely”.
As for the Prayut-Prawit-Anupong alliance, 39.47% thought it would remain solid and have a say or play a role in the forming of the next government. More than 23% ruled out such a possibility. Nearly 21% believed that the alliance would “likely” be intact, against an “unlikely” group of 12.21%.
Almost 63% said Prawit would never be the next prime minister.
In another development, many analysts believe that if Prayut is to dissolve the House and call for a snap election, it has to be soon or before a charter amendment can take official effect. The amendment would return Thailand to a two-ballot system which would considerably benefit the opposition Pheu Thai Party. A House dissolution that favours Prayut would have to neutralise the amendment because the current one-ballot system does not benefit Pheu Thai as much as the two-ballot one.
September 11, 2021: A comic novel. More lawsuits. Movies. Attempts to insert their says in a HBO docuseries. Those are the latest activities in a 20-year campaign of a movement that refuses to believe Washington’s official story on 9/11.
The comic novel was called “Born on 9/11”, featuring a fictional character who is the son of one of the firefighters who perished in New York on the fateful day. One of the lawsuits was against America’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, whose findings on the attacks on the World Trade Centre complex are disputed by the activists.
One of the movies is named “SEVEN”, referring to the third skyscraper to collapse at the World Trade Centre complex on that day, a fact that the activists say had escaped world attention for so long. The other film is “The Unspeakable”, which highlights struggles of certain affected families.
Lawsuits have been filed by the movement and some of the victims’ families to demand new investigations. Then there is the HBO docuseries, which initially included controversial statements of the much-taunted yet die-hard “Truthers” network, which brings together quite a number of family members and relatives of the people killed. They have questioned the official story, which places the blame squarely on the al-Qaeda militants, and are furious about re-editing attempts that could take away information they want to put forth.
If all of the above makes 2021 look like a busy year of the activists, who call themselves “Truthers”, truth is that the group of architects, engineers, academics and ordinary citizens who are suspicious of the official narrative has been quite active since its formation, which was not long after 9/11. The activists (called “conspiracy theorists” by many and flaunting one of the most shocking theories of all time), however, have been ignored by the mainstream media and major human rights networks such as Amnesty International.
September 10, 2021: The opposition’s biggest censure achievement has to be the explosion of the Prayut-Thammanat conflict and consequences of the latter’s shocking departure from the Cabinet that are still unfolding.
Following are key questions, some of which will be answered quite immediately, while others will be tackled sooner than the rest: Will Thammanat quit the Palang Pracharath Party’s secretary-general post? Will his faction up the ante against the government? Will there be an open rebellion? Will there be a Cabinet reshuffle? What is the current state of relationship between the prime minister and Palang Pracharath leader Prawit Wongsuwan? (By that, their “true” relationship, not what is projected publicly.)
How is the stunning development affecting the on-going attempts to amend, or block proposed amendments of, the charter? What will the opposition say, having described Thammanat as unfit for the Cabinet all the time? With the Prayut-Thammanat ties shakiest and at their lowest point, will it impact the prime minister’s clout when other coalition partners are concerned? How can Prayut Chan-o-cha re-solidify his coalition which must be confused with many feeling insecure? How can he reassure his allies, having no party of his own and dependent on the Senate whose future is far from certain itself?
Last but not least, how’s Prayut, who is alternating between expressing dark humour and testiness?
September 9, 2021: Many things should get clearer, hopefully, when Parliament returns at the end of this week to possibly advance proposed charter amendments, with alliances both on and beneath the surface standing to be tested.
There’s a rumoured Palang Pracharath-Pheu Thai conspiracy to return Thailand to a two-ballot system, which should benefit them and put Move Forward at a disadvantage. It’s undeniable that Move Forward reaped substantial gains from the one-ballot system in the previous election and the dissolution of a Pheu Thai “affiliate”, the Thai Raksa Chart Party.
Move Forward, extremely awkward as the one-ballot system is a key element in this Constitution, has tried to promote its own version of a two-ballot system which could soften the blow but is more complicated and balked at by many.
A big irony is that, in order to block a return to the two-ballot system, Move Forward will need some support from the Senate, an institution that the party has fought tooth and nail against. Senate’s powers prescribed under this much-maligned Constitution include a requirement that at least one-third of the chamber must approve a proposed charter change, which will be rejected otherwise no matter how many MPs back it.
As for the government’s alliance, a two-ballot system would enhance Pheu Thai’s chances of kicking Prayut Chan-o-cha out after the next election. Therefore, the rumoured Palang Pracharath-Pheu Thai conspiracy does not affect just Move Forward, but also the prime minister.
A Pheu Thai message to Palang Pracharath over the past few days has been “We are keeping a close watch on you.” But that is just part of the complexity. Prayut, apparently, does not fully trust Palang Pracharath. Palang Pracharath, meanwhile, is reportedly getting more ambitious. Pheu Thai and Move Forward are allies in name but they are far from having complete faith in each other. Palang Pracharath and Pheu Thai are enemies in name but are they sending friendly codes? And if there is really a conspiracy between Pheu Thai and Palang Pracharath, the above “We-are-watching-you” message suggests it’s a fragile one. And we haven’t even scrutinised the Senate just yet.
The situation is not only fluid, but also a big mess.
September 8, 2021: How the prime minister and one of his government’s most influential men treat each other in public is becoming the most closely-watched political development in Thailand. The first gossip since the no-confidence debate is that the former looked like a sulking woman at a Cabinet meeting earlier this week while the latter always carried the expression of a man who had forgotten his girlfriend’s birthday.
It was reported that while the prime minister acknowledged it when other Cabinet members wai him when he arrived, he simply walked past Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao without even a glance at the latter’s respectful greeting. That made Thammanat look awkward and embarrassed.
The uneasy relationship , which was a big political focus during last week’s censure session in Parliament, will continue for quite a while. It can even explode into something nasty.
September 7, 2021: Rumours drive Thai politics, and dismissing them are a big part of every politician’s job. Rating gossips is the day-to-day duty of good citizens.
All those are taking place with full vigour today, as the ambitions of the Palang Pracharath Party and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha are looking more and more conflicting with each other.
Deputy Prime Minister and Palang Pracharath leader Prawit Wongsuwan is doing his bit today. Is Palang Pracharath secretary-general Thamanat Prompow seeking to quit the party post? “No”, Prawit told reporters. Will Palang Pracharath join hands with Pheu Thai (and kick Prayut and Move Forward out in the process) in the future? “No.” Are you (Prawit) aspiring to be prime minister? “No, no, no.”
What should good citizens do? Just paste those questions and answers on the wall or refrigerator.
September 6, 2021: The public have been warned that October could still see a daily rise to 30,000 infection cases whereas the government’s political opponents have been given a strong clue that relaxed rules on street gatherings would not be seen anytime soon.
That, on the one hand, seems to give the embattled administration an awkward breathing space politically. On the other hand, what can lead to relaxing of rules _ or drastically-reduced case numbers to be specific _ will relax the government as well.
In short, nobody is happy at the moment, despite the daily infection numbers going down a bit. A very little bit.
Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin, the government’s spokesman on COVID-19 situation, said today that the slight improvement was due to strict, preventive measures taken by the government and individual citizens, and it shall never be taken as a sign of the coronavirus being weakened or getting easier on Thailand. It’s still very likely that things can still go wrong, and a daily infection number of 30,000 remains a possibility in the weeks to come. Lockdowns, the most painful economic measure, helped, Taweesin insisted.
October is a very crucial month, he said.
September 5, 2021: In the latest NIDA poll, people intending to vote for Chadchart Sittipunt in the Bangkok gubernatorial election have switched top ranks with those who remain undecided. Interesting findings have also emerged on the opposition bloc.
Now, 27.71 % of 1,317 eligible voters surveyed would cast their ballots for Chadchart, who is running as an independent candidate, compared with 23,8% of 1,313 people questioned in June. The number of undecided voters now is 24.60%, down from 30.6% in June.
Coming third now is former police chief Chakthip Chaijinda, with 15.49% support. He was 12.5% in the previous survey.
The opposition Pheu Thai Party, yet to announce who would be its candidate, would receive support from 3.27%. That is a decline from June when the opposition camp got a 5.3% backing. Move Forward, which is also still tightlipped on candidate nomination, now enjoys a 5.34% support, up from 2.8% previously. The numbers show that the two opposition giants, too, are switching ranks.
The latest survey was conducted just before and during the newly-ended censure debate. The poll shows a big mountain to climb for the Palang Pracharath, Democrat and Kla parties if they are going to join the gubernatorial contest.
Again, things can change significantly when all candidates are unveiled.
September 4, 2021: Minimal numerical differences have always been politically maximised in the aftermath of no-confidence voting in Parliament, but the scrutiny this time could be the most intense ever for obvious reasons.
First thing first, the prime minister was near the bottom of the ranking of confidence vote getters. To add to that, Prayut Chan-o-cha received less parliamentary support compared with the previous censure. It has to be noted, though, that the difference is minor, and that when the vote on him took place today, there were fewer MPs present in the assembly hall than when voting was called for other censure targets.
Yet the absence could be seen as conspicuous. It would help fuel the rumours that not all government MPs, particularly those in Palang Pracharath, were supporting him this time. (“Performances” and “national interests” were mentioned in gossips but news reports implied that the biggest reason was dissatisfaction with Cabinet quotas.)
Simply put, although the government has predictably survived another censure, and quite comfortably so, three or four more votes for Prayut would have made him a lot happier. As things stand, the “minor” numerical issues coming out of the censure vote could mean a lot of serious talking between him and the biggest coalition party.
Given scary and frenzied rumours before today’s vote, Prayut can be relieved to fall just three or four votes shy of full satisfaction, and 208 no-confidence votes today compared with 206 no-confidence votes in the previous censure should be anything but panic stations. Or he can be having something to think seriously about.
Are differences in numbers minor? Yes. Are they dismissible? Many will say “Not quite”.
September 3, 2021: Gossips about some MPs being “bought” emerged at practically every no-confidence debate, but similar claims are currently being made against an unprecedented backdrop of political divide and hence can greatly benefit or badly affect either side.
Positives for the opposition bloc are that the rumours can keep a public focus firmly on a censure debate until the last minute regardless of its substance, or rock the government coalition’s unity to its core if signs consistent with the claims were seen at the final voting. A big degree of swayed allegiance can even forge a major political change.
The negative is that the extreme opposite can happen. The rumours can distract the media and thus the public in general from the other content of the censure debate, meaning the opposition would have done it all for nothing. And a House dissolution in case Prayut Chan-o-cha is disheartened is not necessarily what the opposition wants, as it would create fresh uncertainties and a new election would have to take place under the existing Constitution.
Hours are left before the curtain comes down on the censure. When Prayut suggested the other day that the rumours worried him, there were two possibilities: Either he was really unsettled, or he was leading everyone to the wrong direction. Whatever he meant shall be known at the voting.
When rumours about MPs selling or attempting to sell their votes receive greater media and public attention than the rest of what is being said on the parliamentary floor, it tells a lot about the censure debate, not least whether it is packed with information beneficial to the Thai people.
September 2, 2021: New laws are allowing many to carry firearms openly in public in parts of America, a country where political divide is intensifying.
Never mind the data showing gun violence is alarmingly increasing across the country, a new law in Texas is going into effect right now allowing most Texans who legally own firearms to carry them openly in public without obtaining a permit or training, the latest in a series of successful pro-gun bills that state lawmakers have passed this year.
The number of shootings in Texas, suicides excluded, has increased 14% this year. There were roughty 3,200 incidents in the big state compared with last year’s 2,800. 2019 documented 2,100 cases.
A new pro-gun law in Texas that went into effect Wednesday allows most Texans who legally own a firearm to carry it openly in public without obtaining a permit or training, a measure that experts say will make it more challenging for law enforcement to protect the public from gun violence.
The new law was hailed by top Texan authorities as something that further “instilled freedom”.
September 1, 2021: The only thing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was clear-cut about when he talked to reporters before the start of the censure debate today was that a House dissolution “never crosses” his mind.
The other important question, concerning reported conflicts with some Palang Pracharath MPs who might be responsible for “underwater waves” which originated from unhappiness with Cabinet quotas and might affect the numbers of votes of confidence each targeted Cabinet members get, received a response that was anything but reassuring.
The prime minister said he had talked to Palang Pracharath leader Prawit Wongsuwan who told him everything was fine yet he (Prawit) was uneasy “as well” because “news won’t stop” despite some clearing-the-air talks within the ruling party.
The use of the words “as well” implied that the prime minister himself also was uneasy.
Asked what if some government MPs did not give him votes of confidence, Prayut replied: “If that became true, it would be an ungentlemanly conduct.”
He admitted that he might seem aloof in the eyes of some government MPs, but that was because “people have different roles to play.” He said anyone could access him for talks or advices. That was, again, an admission that government MPs’ criticism against him existed.
Prayut insisted that there was no problem between him and Prawit because “we talk all the time”, and that the idea of dissolving the House of Representatives “never crosses my mind”. “He (Prawit) promised he would further look into any sign of problem. He said he finds no problem at the moment but that there could have been cases that escaped his attention,” Prayut said.